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CPSU in the news: Workforce

Tas Govt ditches pay freeze Bill following upper house delay

In what has been called an extraordinary dummy spit, the Tasmanian Government has withdrawn its bill to freeze public sector pay for 12 months after the state upper house last night voted to adjourn debate so as to encourage the govt to negotiate with the workers instead.

The Govt responded that it will dump the bill and move to cut 500 jobs instead, refusing calls to negotiate with unions despite their willingness to accept a pay pause.

The Crown Employees Salaries Bill overrode public sector agreements negotiated last year, quashing 2% wage increases for the first year – including incremental pay increases – and then capping 2% increases indefinitely after that. The Bill also allowed the Treasurer to use regulations to unilaterally determine pay increases as well as restrict the powers of the Tasmanian Industrial Relations Commission (WF19245). The IRC president this week said the Bill would have destroyed the independence of the industrial tribunal. The International Labour Organisation indicated the Bill would breach conventions over freedom of association and collective bargaining.

This week, the Govt indicated it was open to amendments to address upper house members’ concerns, including removing the freeze on incremental pay increases in favour of extending the overall wage freeze from 12 to 18 months.

Last night, the upper house voted to defer debate on the Bill until the next sitting day on October 28 to allow the Govt to test unions’ willingness to negotiate. Independent MLC Tania Rattrey said if the Govt and unions did not reach a deal within a month she would reluctantly vote for the Bill. However, Treasurer Peter Gutwein said “by delaying the wage freeze legislation the legislative council has effectively rejected the Bill”. “Unfortunately, today’s [September 25] vote in the upper house left us with no other option,” he said.

Govt says it’s ‘keeping its word’

Gutwein said since the Coalition was elected in March “Tasmanians have learned that when we say something, we mean it”. “We have been very clear and upfront about the consequence of failing to pass the pay pause. It was the pay pause or 500 jobs.” He claimed unions were given “ample opportunity” to negotiate but had failed to do so. “Their claim to want to negotiate now, at the 11th hour, was disingenuous at best.” A spokesperson for Gutwein told Workforce the Govt had met with unions three times since June. The last meeting was on July 15.

Community Public Sector Union (CPSU) Tas secretary Tom Lynch told WF the govt only raised the pay pause in the third meeting and only to say it was going to legislate it. “There has never been a negotiation around a pay pause.” Lynch said the CPSU was open to negotiating a pay pause if the govt committed to protecting jobs. “I’d be surprised it that’s rejected by public sector workers.”

Gutwein said the sort of “negotiated outcomes” proposed by the unions would take “months, not weeks, to achieve”. “The budget and this State cannot afford to be held to ransom any longer by the Labor Party and the union movement.”

 

Take a cold shower and get back to us: CPSU

Lynch said “this is extraordinary behaviour by an incredibly arrogant Govt”. He labelled the Govt’s move a “total dummy spit” and a “childish overreaction” – “not one I think the community will accept in the long run.” “They need to take a cold shower and come back to the negotiating table,” he said. “They will have to realise you can’t behave in this way, not if you want to be taken seriously.” Lynch noted there was no immediate time imperative for cost savings because the Bill’s pay pause would not have had effect until December. On the other hand, to replace the savings from the pay pause Lynch said the Govt would need all 500 people “out of the door” by the end of Dec. “That’s just not going to happen.” He said redeployment policies created a six to nine month time lag before someone could be retrenched. Lynch said both business and unions had noted a further 500 job cuts on top of the current 700 would have a “devastating” impact on the state’s economy. The Govt was no longer ruling out cuts to front line services. Lynch said the unions would seek to make themselves available “every single day” for negotiations and conduct a community campaign in favour of talks. However, he said industrial action was not on the cards at this stage.

 

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